Fall Kale Salad with Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette

A delicious fall kale salad that’s full of flavor and showcases the best ingredients of the season, all tossed with an easy balsamic vinaigrette.

Fall Kale Salad with Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette | CaliGirlCooking.com

I want alllll the fall veggies. More particularly, I want all the fall veggies in the form of this Fall Kale Salad with Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette. By now you all should know that I clearly have an obsession with seasonal, of-the-moment kale salads. I started out the year with my Winter Kale Salad, back in January, then in April we had my Spring Kale Salad with Honey-Tahini Dressing. Of course by then I had to hit all of the seasons, so in July I brought you my Summer Kale Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette, and now it’s time for this fall version to shine.

Yea, yea, kale’s been the “it” superfood for a while, and I’m well aware that some say they can’t come around to kale salads because of kale’s toughness and heartiness, but friends, let me tell you, just accept the kale for what it is. You see, kale’s resiliency means that it can beautifully absorb any dressing, if just given a little bit of time. I, for one, LOVE kale salads because I can prep them the night or morning before I plan to eat them (dressing and all) and they won’t be a wilted pile of nothing by the time I get around to eating them.

In fact, IMHO, kale salads just get better with age, and this Fall Kale Salad with Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette is no exception. An overnight sit (or even just a few hours) really allows the dressing to not only soak into the kale, but it also allows all of the other ingredients in this delicious dish to meld together, a perfect balance of salty, hearty and sweet.

Fall Kale Salad with Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette | CaliGirlCooking.com

So by now I bet you’re wondering, what exactly makes this kale salad a FALL Kale Salad? And to that I reply “Ohhhhh so many things.”

First and foremost, acorn squash. We give this fantastic source of Vitamin C a little roast in the oven (skin and all!) first, because now that it’s fall we can actually turn on our oven for a bit without overheating our entire house.

Fall Kale Salad with Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette | CaliGirlCooking.com

Secondly, BACON. Being the bacon-lover that I am, I see this as a fairly integral part of this dish for the crunchy little bites of saltiness it adds to the mix, but if you want to keep it vegetarian or vegan, feel free to (a) leave it out or (b) throw in some coconut bacon (speaking of, does anyone have a good recipe for this? I’ve been dying to try it.)

Thirdly, sliced Brussels sprouts. But there aren’t just ANY Brussels sprouts, my friends. These receive a glorious little pan fry in the leftover grease from cooking the bacon. Don’t think about it, just do it. You won’t regret it.

Fall Kale Salad with Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette | CaliGirlCooking.com

Now it’s about time to add in that little bit of sweetness to really give this Fall Kale Salad the ultimate flavor balance. Enter, persimmons! Yes, it’s that time of year and this fairly-recent-lover of the antioxidant-packed fruit couldn’t be more excited. Before making this salad, I’d only enjoyed persimmons fully pulverized into a puree and baked in my MIL’s famous Persimmon Cookies, but when I saw them at the Farmer’s Market this early in the season, I just had to have them. The farmer selling them assured me they were perfectly good to eat as hard and crunchy as they were and, boy, was he right! I eagerly tossed some sliced persimmon into the mix.

We also add some small slices of fresh shallots to give the dish a little pop. I love adding these small bursts of flavor to my salads (much like fresh herbs!) because they really add that extra dimension and take it from “just a salad” to amazingness.

Finally, because I can’t NOT put nuts into my salads, I threw in some toasted walnuts. You could also use pecans, but we do that quite frequently here in our household and I wanted to throw in something a little special and different. Plus, my hubby likes eating them for his heart health (so cute.) It’s a win-win!

We toss all of this goodness with a super-easy, four-ingredient balsamic vinaigrette. We’re talking olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Incredibly basic, I know, but in all honesty it’s how we enjoy most of our salads, so I figured, why not?

Lastly, we cannot call this Fall Kale Salad with Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette complete without a little shaving of Pecorino Romano over top. That’s it! So easy, and so delicious.

Fall Kale Salad with Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette | CaliGirlCooking.com

This is exactly the type of meal the hubs and I like to eat on a Monday night. I don’t know about you, but we often take Monday as our day to detox and reset after what are frequently weekends of indulgence. It’s a great way to get back to our balanced lifestyle after a couple of days of fun, and sets us up for a great rest of our week.

So get thee to a supermarket (or better, Farmer’s Market) and snatch up all of these seasonal, delicious Fall Kale Salad ingredients before they’re gone for another year. Remember, don’t be afraid to make the salad a couple of hours (or even a day) early to really let the kale marinate in the dressing and allow the flavors to come together. Let’s start this week off healthy, delicious and feeling good! XO

Fall Kale Salad with Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette | CaliGirlCooking.com

Fall Kale Salad with Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette
Prep Time
25 mins
Total Time
25 mins
 
A delicious kale salad showcasing the best ingredients of fall, tossed with an easy balsamic vinaigrette.
Ingredients
For the salad:
  • 1 acorn squash seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 1 cup sliced Brussels sprouts
  • 1 large bunch kale de-stemmed and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 persimmon cut into quarters and then thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot thinly sliced
  • ½ cup walnut pieces toasted
  • 2-3 ounces thinly shaved Pecorino Romano
For the vinaigrette:
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
Instructions
  1. First, roast the acorn squash. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place acorn squash slices on a jelly roll pan lined with aluminum foil. Season squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place pan in oven and roast for 10-15 minutes (flipping squash slices after about 7 minutes), until squash is golden and tender to the touch.
  2. Next, cook the bacon. Place bacon slices in a large saute pan over medium-high heat and cook until browned and slightly crispy, flipping halfway. Place cooked bacon on a small plate lined with a paper towel to drain. Once cooled, chop the bacon into small pieces.
  3. Using the same pan you cooked the bacon in, pan fry the Brussels sprouts. Keep the saute pan on medium heat (do not wipe out the bacon grease) and cook the Brussels sprouts until golden on all sides. Turn off heat and set aside.
  4. Place the chopped kale in a large bowl. Add the acorn squash, chopped bacon, and Brussels sprouts. Next, add the persimmon, shallot and walnuts.
  5. In a small bowl, mix all of the vinaigrette ingredients together using a whisk or fork. Pour vinaigrette over the salad and toss to combine. For best results, let salad sit in refrigerator for a few hours before serving.
  6. Shave Pecorino Romano on top of salad before serving.
Recipe Notes

Wine Pairing Notes: The beauty of kale is that it's hearty enough to stand up to fuller bodied wines. This salad will pair just as well with an oaked Chardonnay as it will with a light, juicy Pinot Noir.

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Fall Kale Salad with Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette | CaliGirlCooking.com

Here’s to our health!

Summer Kale Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette

This hearty summer kale salad features some of the best in-season summer produce and a tangy homemade grapefruit vinaigrette.

Summer Kale Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette | CaliGirl Cooking

It’s sweet, sweet summertime and the produce is easy. Easy to make a delicious Summer Kale Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette out of! Summer has nearly reached its peak, which means it’s time for me to continue keeping my promise of delivering a delicious kale salad for every season. If you’ve been following along for a little while, you’ll be quite familiar with my love for ALL salads made out of this leafy, fibrous green. I made this Winter Kale Salad back in January, filled with pomegranates, almonds and yummy root vegetables, and in April I whipped together this tasty Spring Kale Salad with Honey-Tahini Dressing, featuring all the green things.

Some may say kale has reached its peak, but I beg to differ. Kale is such a huge nutritional powerhouse that I’m confident it will be a fixture in healthy food fiends’ diets for years to come. After all, how can you turn down something so good (and so good for you?) There are endless possibilities with kale, and you can bet you’ll be seeing a lot more recipes popping up here starring this delicious superfood.

Summer Kale Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette | CaliGirl Cooking

So, what fruits and veggies made the cut for this Summer Kale Salad? Let’s see here. We roasted up some beets as well as one of my FAVORITE summer season vegetables – padron peppers! Seriously, I can never get enough of them. Well, maybe that one time I ate an entire bowl to myself in one sitting, but I made a quick recovery after the heartburn passed the next day. You have to when these tasty bites are only available for a few months out of the year! I also had to throw in some nicely sautéed corn, because corn = summertime. Same goes for fresh peaches and heirloom tomatoes. We want them anyway we can get them while the getting’s hot.

Even though this kale salad is full of lots of big flavor, I’d be remiss in not mentioning some of the little things that really take this salad from “good” to “amazing!” We’re talking green onions, shallots, goat cheese and macadamia nuts. They seem like little, meaningless touches but they pack a HUGE punch. Trust me on this one.

Summer Kale Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette | CaliGirl Cooking

Finally, we finish everything off with a tangy grapefruit vinaigrette, which is simply fresh grapefruit juice, olive oil, oregano and the usual salt and pepper. So easy! You hardly need to call it a dressing. Maybe an accoutrement?

One thing I absolutely love about kale salads is that they hold up well (and tend to get even better) over time. You’ll notice a huge difference between a freshly dressed kale salad and one that’s been marinating in its dressing overnight. And, if you’re into meal prep, you’ll find that this kale salad is the perfect dish to add to your weekly rotation. Prep extra beets, corn and peppers to use in grain salads, as side dishes with simple grilled chicken, or even as quick and easy snacks on their own.

Finally, feel free to use some creative license here. This Summer Kale Salad is completely adaptable, so feel free to swap in different fruits or vegetables. Sometimes it’s best to just see what your local Farmer’s Market is showing off that week.

Summer Kale Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette | CaliGirl Cooking

 

Basically, you have no reason not to run and make this Summer Kale Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette this week. Healthy, so tasty and full of nutrients…What’s not to love?

Summer Kale Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 
This hearty kale salad features some of the best summer produce and a tangy grapefruit vinaigrette.
Ingredients
For the salad:
  • 2 beets peeled and diced
  • 6 ounces padron peppers stems removed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 bunch kale cut off the rib and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 small shallot sliced
  • 1 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes halved
  • ½ cup macadamia nuts chopped
  • 2 green onions sliced
  • 1 yellow peach thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
For the dressing:
  • ¼ cup fresh grapefruit juice
  • ½ cup avocado oil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
Instructions
  1. First, roast the beets and the peppers. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large jelly roll pan with aluminum foil and set aside.
  2. Combine beets and peppers in a large mixing bowl. Add olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Pour onto prepared jelly roll pan and place in preheated oven. Roast beets and peppers for 20 minutes, or until beets can be easily pierced with a fork and peppers have charred slightly. Remove from oven and let cool.
  3. While beets and peppers are cooking, prepare the corn. Place a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and corn, cooking until corn has started turning golden. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. While vegetables are cooling, prepare the other ingredients for the salad. In a large salad bowl, combine kale, shallot, tomatoes, macadamia nuts, green onions, peach and goat cheese. Once other vegetables have cooled, add those as well.
  5. Finally, make the dressing. If you have a mason jar with a lid, combine all ingredients in the jar, put the lid on, and shake to combine. If you do not have a mason jar, simply add all of the dressing ingredients to a small bowl and whisk vigorously to combine. Add dressing to salad right away and toss to combine.
Recipe Notes

This salad can be enjoyed immediately, but for best results, let marinate for a few hours or overnight before serving.

 

Summer Kale Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette | CaliGirlCooking.com

#eattherainbow

 

Spring Kale Salad with Honey-Tahini Dressing

This Spring Kale Salad is loaded with the best spring produce and topped with an addicting honey tahini dressing. It will become a new favorite!

Spring Kale Salad with Honey-Tahini Dressing | CaliGirl Cooking

I love kale salads because they are soooo versatile. Since the kale is so hearty, it can really stand up to just about anything. That means we can load this puppy up with all of the things, all of the healthy things! I’m totally digging it and soon you will be too.

But first, how was everyone’s weekend? Highlights? Lowlights? It was so nice getting to spend some quality time with my mom, brother and his fam, but I sure missed my honey while he was living it up at his Bachelor Party! Looking forward to the few days we have together before I turn around and head up north to Santa Cruz for my Bridal Shower next weekend, the wedding marathon has officially begun!

I’m most definitely going to be counting on more and more fresh, healthy dishes like this Spring Kale Salad to get me through these crazy times. I know I’ll have more energy (as I’m sitting here kicking myself for being so tired since I spent the entire morning cooking and shooting recipes for the blog and realized I forgot to eat a proper breakfast) and it will also help me keep my bod (and my skin!) on track for looking my best on the big day. It’s amazing what a difference you feel when you start paying attention to your body!

Spring Kale Salad with Honey-Tahini Dressing | CaliGirl Cooking

So, this kale salad. It’s pretty amazing. I basically went to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning and bought anything and everything that screamed “spring” at me and threw it all together in one big bowl. I then topped it with a delicious honey-tahini dressing featuring the Acacia Honey from one of my favorite new brands, Heavenly Organics. Not only do their honeys taste amazing, but they’re ethically harvested so that no bees are harmed in the process of making their delicious products. Pretty cool , huh? More to come on them in next week’s posts.

But back to our Spring Kale Salad with Honey-Tahini Dressing. As all kale salads are (or salads in general, for that matter), this recipe is completely customizable. I realize I live in Santa Barbara where we pretty much have viable produce all year round, but take advantage of what your local markets have, wherever you may be. That’s half the fun of it! My Farmer’s Market wins for this salad were some teensy, cute little radishes, some huge-ass English asparagus (no joke, we’re talking over a foot long), crisp sugar snap peas and some of the first fennel of the season (to name just a few.)

Spring Kale Salad with Honey-Tahini Dressing | CaliGirl Cooking

Now, there are always a few components you want to be sure you include in your salads: the fresh veggies (of course), but also something crunchy (which for me is usually some kind of toasted nut, in this case, hazelnuts), something sweet (I went for some of my favorite dates, the ones I used to make this and this) and as many fresh herbs as you can muster. Seriously, don’t skip the herbs. I know it sounds a bit tedious but they are such a game changer! You will not even believe what you had been missing in your pre-adding-fresh-herbs-to-your-salads days.

And of course, we have to talk about our Honey-Tahini Dressing. This one was a little off-the-cuff for me, since truthfully I’m usually a simple salad dressing kind of gal – olive oil and balsamic or lemon juice and I’m done. But I wanted to change things up a bit more from my Winter Kale Salad, so I whisked together some olive oil, lemon juice, tahini and honey, plus some garlic and a good pinch of salt, and man! It’s so delicious. In fact, the whole salad is sitting in the refrigerator right now “marinating” and I can’t wait to try it again at dinner time, once all of the flavors have melded together and soaked into our kale and hearty vegetables…..Yummmm!!!

Spring Kale Salad with Honey-Tahini Dressing | CaliGirl Cooking

The best part about this salad is that it’s REALLY easy, with hardly any cooking required. The only step that requires you to turn on any heat-emitting device is to quickly blanch the asparagus, and that’s for only about 5, max 10 minutes.

So what do you think? Are you ready to give it a whirl? Get thee to your city’s next Farmer’s Market and see what you can find. You’re definitely not going to regret this!

Spring Kale Salad with Honey-Tahini Dressing | CaliGirl Cooking

Spring Kale Salad with Honey-Tahini Dressing
A light and tasty spring rendition of everyone's favorite kale salad, finished with a creamy honey-tahini dressing.
Ingredients
For the salad:
  • 2 cups asparagus cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale ribbed and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 10 radishes thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ cups sugar snap peas sliced diagonally
  • 2 cups sliced fresh fennel approximately 1 large or 2-3 small bulbs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives chopped
  • 1 cup dates pitted and chopped (about 10 dates)
  • 1 cup toasted hazelnuts chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste
For the dressing:
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. First, blanch the asparagus. Bring a medium saucepan full of water to a boil. While water is coming to a boil, prepare your ice bath. Take a medium mixing bowl and fill it about halfway (maybe a little more) with ice water. Once water on stove is boiling, add asparagus pieces for about 2 ½ minutes. Immediately remove from heat, strain, and add asparagus to ice bath. Let sit for another 2-3 minutes and then drain again. Set aside.
  2. Next, make the salad. Combine all remaining ingredients (including asparagus) in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. Finally, make the dressing. In a small mixing bowl, combine all dressing ingredients using a whisk. Pour over salad; toss to combine.
  4. For best results, let salad sit and marinate for an hour or two before serving.
Recipe Notes

Wine Pairing Notes: As most green dishes do, this salad would pair wonderfully with an herbal, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc.

Spring Kale Salad with Honey-Tahini Dressing | CaliGirl Cooking

Slay.

Winter Kale Salad

New year, new me.

Winter Kale Salad | CaliGirl Cooking

Isn’t that what we all say? Yes, it may be cliché, but I do think the start of a new year is a great time to perhaps not necessarily make “resolutions” but rather goals or aspirations for the next twelve months.

This year I splurged and bought myself one of these planners to help map out my life and my goals for growth in 2016. Last week I sat down and started writing out all of my intentions, and I must say it was such an inspiration for me and the great way to end 2015. Even if you don’t use a Day Designer like I’ve decided to (although I highly recommend it), I encourage you to take a moment and write down what you hope to accomplish in three, six, nine and 12 months and put it all on a calendar, so it’s there for you to see every single day.

Winter Kale Salad | CaliGirl Cooking

I am so excited for this next year, not only for what I believe it has in store for this little blog of mine, but because I also get to marry my best friend. As soon as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, Chris and I looked at each other and said “We get to get married this year!” We’ve been planning our special day since May, so it’s exciting when the calendar finally turns to the actual year in which the big day happens.

Because our wedding is this summer, we decided that the turn of the new year would be the perfect time for us to start cleaning up our eating habits a bit and focus on becoming as healthy as we can be for not only our wedding, but to start out our lives together as a married couple. We generally eat fairly healthy (with a strong focus on whole, homemade foods rather than packaged foods riddled with extra preservatives) but we all know what havoc the holidays can wreck on those habits. I mean, you just can’t turn down holiday M&M’s or all of the baked goods that get thrust upon you in the last month of the year.

Our goal for the New Year is to simply limit our guilty pleasures (I’m looking at you, cheese) and focus on creative recipes incorporating clean and tasty foods. Hence, the reason I am sharing this incredibly taste Winter Kale Salad with you today. When I lived in Napa, one of my chef friends (hi, Izzy!) taught me a great template for making a kale salad bursting with flavor, and not one that tastes like you’re chewing on cardboard.

Winter Kale Salad | CaliGirl Cooking

The main techniques that make this particularly taste kale salad are:

  • Making it at least a few hours (and even better, a day) in advance to let the dressing really marinate the kale and soften it up.
  • Including a combination of strongly flavored ingredients such as shallots and fresh herbs.
  • Chopping everything up into bite-sized pieces makes it easier to get the perfect balance of flavors in every bite.

As you can see, the outline is basic and you certainly do not have to stick to all of these EXACT same ingredients every time you make a kale salad. I used a variety of winter vegetables (mainly root vegetables) for this version, but come spring, summer and fall I’m sure I’ll be bringing this recipe back and sharing some other variations with you.

Winter Kale Salad | CaliGirl Cooking

 

I brought this Winter Kale Salad over to my brother’s house last night and let me just say it was devoured. There is a perfect balance of flavors: a slight sweetness from the roasted beets, a crunch from the slivered almonds, and acidity from the lemon juice to name a few.

Winter Kale Salad | CaliGirl Cooking

If there’s a particular vegetable you’re not too fond of, by all means substitute in something else. I love kale salads because they are hearty and can be made in advance (as I mentioned, they even get better with time, up to a point.) They can hold up to quite a bit, and are a great showcase for so many different herbs and vegetables. This Winter Kale Salad is great with a warming soup for a light and healthy dinner, or just add some grilled chicken or other protein to the salad itself and you have a filling lunch to take to the office.

Winter Kale Salad | CaliGirl Cooking

Do you have a favorite winter salad recipe that you love to kick off the New Year with?

Here’s to a healthy, happy 2016 and to realizing all of our goals and intentions!

Winter Kale Salad
A tasty and refreshing kale salad with winter vegetables and fresh herbs.
Ingredients
  • 1 golden beet peeled and diced
  • 1 bunch kale chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 watermelon radish peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 shallot thinly sliced
  • 1 large carrot peeled and diced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate arils
  • ½ cup sliced almonds toasted
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a small jelly roll pan with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray or coconut oil spray. Place diced beets on pan and drizzle with olive oil or spray with more coconut oil spray. Sprinkle on salt and pepper.
  2. Place beets in oven and bake at 400 degrees for approximately 20 minutes, or until you can easily poke a fork in them. You may want to check on them about halfway through and give them a little stir for more even cooking. Remove from oven when done and let cool.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add all of the vegetables, fruit and herbs. Squeeze on lemon juice and drizzle olive oil over top. Toss to coat and then add salt and pepper to taste. Place in refrigerator to marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to a day.
Recipe Notes

Wine Pairing Notes: Because of the fresh and yet hearty qualities of this salad, it would pair equally well with a light Pinot Noir as it would a grassy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Winter Kale Salad | CaliGirl Cooking

I feel the healthiness just looking at it!